Spencer Ackerman | August 6, 2008 | web only
An Iraqi boy moves through a gap between concrete blocks in the Sunni Arab quarter of Azamiyah, in Baghdad. (AP Photo/Asaad Muhsin)
Few governments have relied more on euphemism than the Bush administration. Euphemism is different from spin. Spin puts the best face forward on a given policy; euphemism uses its opposite to describe itself. Hence the Clear Skies Initiative to weaken the Clean Air Act; the Freedom Agenda to describe military domination of the Middle East; or Enhanced Interrogation to discuss torture.
The Iraq War has been characterized by euphemism since its inception. The name "Operation Iraqi Freedom" denotes a foreign military occupation of Iraq endlessly described as liberation -- a term that, in practice, means the absolute opposite of any common-sense definition of "freedom." For over five years, foreign troops have enjoyed the legal right to kill any Iraqi whom commanders deem fit to kill; to search any house commanders deem fit to search; and to detain any Iraqi whom commanders deem fit to detain. This is, clearly, a condition Americans would never accept for themselves. Debate can reasonably occur over whether the war is worth it or whether the rules of engagement are appropriate. But no one can responsibly call this condition "freedom" for Iraqis.
Here's a guide to some of the most pronounced, and pernicious, euphemisms of the Iraq War.